W.W. “Hootie” Johnson, a Greenwood native who was a prominent figure in South Carolina banking and served as Augusta National chairman, died Friday morning. He was 86.
He was born William Woodward Johnson on Feb. 16, 1931, and a childhood friend gave him the nickname “Hootie” when he was 5.
Johnson attended Greenwood High School, and after graduation, played football at the University of South Carolina.
After graduation, he returned to Greenwood, where his career in finance was rooted in a family-owned bank that grew into Banker’s Trust of South Carolina.
With longtime friend Hugh McColl, Johnson helped create a nationwide network through mergers that evolved into Bank of America.
Johnson was named chairman of Augusta National in 1998, serving eight years at the position and leaving an indelible mark on current chairman Billy Payne.
“At all times, Hootie selflessly served as my personal mentor on matters here at Augusta National and the Masters, as well as in business and life,” Payne said in a statement. “He impressed upon me his obsession for constant improvement and a love for Augusta National that will forever remain unmatched. As the current chairman, I owe an immeasurable debt to Hootie Johnson, and I will thank him every day for what he has meant to me personally as well as to the legacy of Augusta National and the Masters.”
Johnson stepped down as chairman in 2006. Augusta National, which opened in 1931 and did not have its first black member until 1990, invited two women to join in 2012. One was former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The other was South Carolina financier Darla Moore, whom Johnson nominated.
Johnson was a key figure in integrating higher education in South Carolina in 1968, getting the state to pay for an undergraduate business program at South Carolina State, which then was attended only by blacks.
Sen. Lindsey Graham acknowledged Johnson on Friday, noting he was proud to call Johnson a friend.
“South Carolina lost one of her most successful business leaders and philanthropists with the passing of Hootie Johnson,” Graham said in a statement. “There was no better spokesman for South Carolina business than Hootie, and to say he was a man of action would be a tremendous understatement.”
Funeral services for Johnson will be held at 2 p.m. Monday at Eastminster Presbyterian Church, 3200 Trenholm Road, Columbia. His is survived by wife Pierrine, four daughters and their families.
The Associated Press and The State contributed to this report.